For the Patriots, Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was an opportunity to get back on track and roll into the playoffs playing solid football. Unfortunately, one of the worst teams in the NFL nearly got the better of them and they snuck out with a 23-16 win.
Tom Brady did not look his best in Jacksonville as the offense struggled to put points on the board. (FILE:USPresswire)
Mistakes that took center stage against the San Francisco 49ers popped back up again and the defense allowed the Jaguars to score a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time since week 5 of 2011. Talk about a breakdown. But it wasn’t just the defense that had miscues early on, the offense was a part of the problem too. Tom Brady threw 2 interceptions, the first of which was a tipped ball and the second was a floated pass to Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd appeared to make no effort to prevent Derek Cox from getting a hold of the ball. Brady was later shown on the sidelines berating his offense, as he should, and finally in the second half things started to pick up.
This lackluster performance raises questions about the Patriots heading into their final game of the regular season. It’s no doubt the secondary was a lesser unit this week as it featured the likes of Marquice Cole and Tracy White who both had five tackles. And with Aqib Talib still battling a hip injury, this newly formed group didn’t do much to show they can rise to the occasion. Talib was seen grabbing his hip every time he was on the field on Sunday so it will be interesting to see if Bill Belichick decides to downgrade him to out next week as a precaution. Chad Henne threw the ball 51 times for 348 yards and was only sacked once. As they tend to do, this defense made the opposing quarterback look like a superstar at times.
But even with the defensive questions there is some hope in that the front seven held the Jags rushing game to only 93 yards. Granted they were without their leading rusher but a stop is still a stop. Chandler Jones came up big in the fourth quarter with the lone sack and a hit on Henne to force the interception that would end the game. It was great to see his resurgence after remaining relatively quiet since he returned from his ankle injury. So while there is consistency in some areas, in others, especially tackling, there are questions that have yet to be answered.
Offensively, Brady was off to start the game. There seemed to be a disconnect between him and Lloyd until the second half. The biggest question that seems to be out there is if the Patriots know that Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez run the risk of double coverage, why aren’t there more plays that put others in their spot? It has been good to see Michael Hoomanawanui finding his way into the mix and it has made a difference. Welker is old reliable, but especially when the playoffs begin, it will be difficult to have him carry the load. It’s important for Josh McDaniels and Brady to find a way to make guys like Danny Woodhead burn opponents with those short passes that allow them to keep the pace of a no huddle offense.
Jacksonville could have easily turned into a trap game but the Patriots did enough to win. Henne is good against tough competition and the Jaguars gave the Patriots all they could handle. Luckily for the Pats, there are two halves to every game and they were able to come out in the second half as a changed unit. There are still a lot of mistakes to correct and with one more game to test the roster depth, we might be in for a close game against Miami next week.